"The Social Network," directed by David Fincher ("Seven," "Fight Club") is an incredible film. It is the kind of movie that examines our culture and how people live in this generation. It uses the origin story of Facebook as a springboard to tell a story about friendship, betrayal, greed and isolation, creating an engrossing American tragedy.
This movie succeeds in every area. Fincher’s direction is involving yet restrained. The script, by Aaron Sorkin ("A Few Good Men," TV’s "The West Wing"), is one of the best in recent memory, at times hysterically funny and also incredibly sad. The acting is excellent and the score by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Atticus Ross is brooding and adds tension to every scene. Combined, these elements make a movie that is completely and utterly engrossing.
The story is a fictional interpretation of true events, and is told in flashbacks stemming from court depositions from two lawsuits that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, faced for creative control of the site. The film begins in 2003 when Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg "Adventureland") is a sophomore at Harvard University. He’s frustrated that he can’t get into one of the prestigious "final clubs" (glorified groups similar to fraternities) at the school, leading to him breaking up with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara). In his anger, Zuckerberg starts blogging about her, which leads him to create a website called FaceMash, a site that lets Harvard students compare pictures of female students and decide who’s more attractive. The website becomes a huge success and even crashes Harvard’s computer network.
The site catches the eye of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer), twin brothers who are building a webisite called The Harvard Connection, which would help guys meet female students. They hire Mark to program the site, but he decides to build his own separate website called "The Facebook" with the help of his best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield, "Never Let Me Go"). The site would put the whole social experience of college online, and would change the shape of our culture. The Winklevoss twins see the site and are furious and eventually they sue Zuckerberg for stealing their intellectual property.
What follows is a story of how greed and unchecked ambition can destroy lives. Zuckerberg and Saverin’s site becomes wildly popular, spreading to colleges all over the country. It’s when Zuckerberg meets notorious Napster mastermind Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) that he sells his soul, so to speak. Parker promises to make Zuckerberg a billionaire, but Saverin is reluctant to trust him. This creates a rift between the two friends, which leads to Saverin also suing Zuckerberg.
The premise might sound dull, but the movie is full of energy. The dialogue is delivered at a fast pace that increases the film’s urgency. The actors are more than able to keep up. Jesse Eisenberg is astounding as Mark Zuckerberg. Eisenberg has been compared to Michael Cera, due to his stammering and dry line readings, but in this movie he uses these mannerisms as weapons. He blindsides people with his intellect and insults and he’s a guy who thinks he’s the smartest person in the room because he usually is. In the process, he creates one of the most fascinating and complicated characters in recent movies. He’s angry, vengeful, lonely and ruthless, sometimes all at once. The more successful he becomes, the more he pushes away his friends and co-workers. But the movie never tries to make him a sympathetic character, which is rare in movies these days.
The most surprising performance is by Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker. It’s not surprising that he captures Parker’s lethal charisma, but he also captures the paranoia and desperation lurking inside. He sees Facebook as his last chance at redemption, after drugs and illicit relationships ruined his previous ventures. He wants to catch the wave that is Facebook, until his own impulses undo him.
Andrew Garfield is nothing short of devastating as Eduardo Saverin. He’s Zuckerberg’s only close friend, and was the CEO of Facebook until his lack of ambition forces Zuckerberg to marginalize his position in the business. We see their friendship slowly deteriorate on screen, and the scene where he finally eviscerates Zuckerberg is a highlight in a movie full of spectacular moments.
Saying this movie is just about Facebook isn’t giving it enough credit. It’s the best movie ever made about the Internet generation, creating a new-age "Citizen Kane" story of greed and betrayal. It explores the paradox of how being connected to everyone can make everyone more isolated in return. It’s a rise and fall story where one loses everything except their fortune. This is illustrated in the movie’s final scene, where Zuckerberg is sitting in a deposition room, alone, refreshing his Facebook page waiting for a confirmed friend request, while "Baby You’re a Rich Man" by The Beatles plays over the scene. This must-see masterpiece’s message recalls another quote from The Beatles: "money can’t buy you love."